Republican candidates for Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District have accepted an invitation to debate once more—save for Scottie Mayfield, again.
Mayfield has opted not to meet with Rep. Chuck Fleischmann and challengers Weston Wamp and Ron Bhalla in a debate planned for May 21, sponsored by the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Last month, Mayfield declined to participate in a June 23 debate sponsored by the Chattanooga Tea Party.
In a recent episode of the roundtable show "Tennessee Insider," Times Free Press reporter Dave Flessner said the candidates had accepted the invitation to debate, which is also sponsored by WRCB-TV.
"We're hopeful that [Mayfield] would still come, but at this point, he's indicated that he's not going to do that and engage in debate," Flessner said.
Joe Hendrix, spokesman for the Mayfield campaign, confirmed the candidate had declined an invitation to the debate. He said Mayfield would stand behind his same reasoning for abstaining from the Tea Party debate—to focus on undecided voters and avoid a divisive arena.
Hendrix said Mayfield had not been presented with a clear format for how the debate would be facilitated in the paper's invitation and said that most voters who would pay attention to the debate had already made a decision.
"The majority of those folks have made up their minds who they are going to vote for," Hendrix said. "Scottie wants to continue to meet with voters who are undecided on a one-to-one basis. It was not the host that was the reason for either of our declining, it was the framework of the debates themselves."
Bruce Oppenheimer, professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt University, said that Mayfield's repeated abstention from debates could potentially harm his candidacy leading up to August.
"Politics involves conflict and resolution of conflict," Oppenheimer said. "The electorate wants to be informed, and debates are one way of doing that. They may not be the best way, but they are one way of differentiating yourself from the other candidates. When you pass on those opportunities, it rarely helps you."
Mayfield's second turndown comes as the candidate finds himself seeking to bounce back after a rough April. Attempting to differentiate himself as an experienced businessman, the regional dairy mogul was distracted by a YouTube video of himself answering questions for University of Tennessee law students and sidelined when his 33-year-old son was caught slashing the tire of a Fleischmann campaign staffer.
Dr. Mary Headrick and Bill Taylor are running in the 3rd District race as Democrats.
The primary is Aug. 2.